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THE POLLSTER'S WAR IN VENEZUELA: FAKE OR REAL?

By Daniel Duquenal

Sunday 4, July 2004 (1). What might have been the main news this week in Caracas was the publication of the partial results of the Greenberg et al. poll, that came flat out to contradict earlier polls from Datanalisis and Consultores 21. Of course this provoked some consternation within the opposition and felicity in chavismo. But was that significant? My answer is no, I am not worried at all and I will explain why at the end.

Chavez and pollsters

Like any government in trouble, the Chavez administration is discrediting any polling organization that does not publish favorable results. Par for the course, even though Datanalisis and Consultores 21 predicted very accurately Chavez victory in 1998. If we had to this that we have an administration that has long stopped accounting for its actions, that runs on emotional arguments, and a president that excoriates the local press and has not given a press conference in 2 years, one should not be surprised at the virulence presented by some notorious chavistas as to adverse polling results. (2)

The pollsters in Venezuela

There are many polling institutes in Venezuela, from the long established ones to hacks that appear at election time. There also the foreign pollsters, serious or not, that are hired on occasion. The recent example that occupies the attention of today's post is the one from Greenberg and associates from the US, that goes against the grain of local recent polls. Unfortunately, this poll complete results and methodology have not been released yet.

The polling difficulties in Venezuela

Polling in Venezuela is rather difficult. The neat split into 5 social sectors actually illustrates quite well the problem. Sectors A, B and C represent the rich, upper middle class and middle class. D and E represent workers and poor. Or so it was in the 80ies when the system was set. But now with nearly 20% official jobless rate and perhaps 50% in the informal economy these divisions are becoming meaningless. Sector A is statistically nonexistent and more and more A and B are considered as one. E, the pauper sector includes probably quite a large number of people near indigent status. In addition the E sector resides in the extensive Caracas and other cities slums and includes those that traditionally have been unwilling or unable to follow the political discourse of the country. The difficulty to poll in a meaningful way this sector should be obvious. The D sector includes more and more the fraction of the C sector that lost its economic stability but not necessarily its values and political motivations. The social changes that have happened in Venezuela in the last 10 years should bring into question some of the polling methods used in the past. Not to mention that recent political pressure could affect even further how people tend to reply to pollster questions. (3) More >>



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